What's the one most effective thing I can do today to fast track my career? The Goldilocks principle.

Have you read or heard any Tim Ferriss material? He's the guy who coined the phrase Four Hour Work Week, and then wrote a book called Four Hour Body.  He is famous for 'hacking' traditional thinking and beliefs about effectiveness in order to deliver excellent results in less time.  While I never really got the Four Hour Work week methodology pinned down as many of my own underlying beliefs keep me focused on time in the office -  I do get the principle. And I truly loved his Four Hour Body principles of minimum effective dose and the 80:20 rule. In fact, I loved it so much that I now apply that in almost all that I do (working out, working in my role, strategic career moves), to maximise effectiveness.  And you can too.

Why Working Hard Doesn't Always Work

Most of spend lots of time working in our roles. We work hard, we do great work, we focus on over delivering (rather than under delivering) - and these are all great things in and of themselves.

  • But do they work long term? 
  • Are they effective when it comes to fast tracking your career?
  • Does working hard, over delivering and doing great work actually get you into a leadership role?

If current numbers of women in leadership roles is any indication - I suspect not!

There is a lot of evidence around to indicate that one of the reasons that women tend to "lean out" after two years or not put their hand up for additional responsibilities is that we report to being worn out and stressed. In a 2015 article by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on women doing ‘Office Housework’ they said:

In an analysis of 183 different studies spanning 15 countries and dozens of occupations, women were significantly more likely to feel emotionally exhausted. In their quest to care for others, women often sacrifice themselves. For every 1,000 people at work, 80 more women than men burn out — in large part because they fail to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others.

Goldilocks Principle or Minimum Effective Dose

The Goldilocks Principle is all about not doing too much, not doing too little, but doing just the right amount.  That's right, finding the sweet spot, the most effective zone or the minimum effective dose. So you are really asking yourself - what is the minimum amount (one thing) that I can do/take/have that will help me achieve my desired result? Not too much, not too little, but just right.  You've got it - the Goldilocks Principle.  So if you get this Goldilocks Principle right you won't under deliver, you won't be worn out from over delivering, and as a result you are far more likely to hit the zone. 

So how do you work out this dosage? How do you know what the Goldilocks zone is?  Because when most of us apply the 80:20 rule (otherwise known as the Pareto Principle) we aren't really sure which is the 20% that is actually going to deliver the 80% result. 

Here's one way of making it work in three easy steps:

1. On a daily basis ask yourself:

"What is the one most effective thing I can do today that will help move the dial on my career?"

2. Then work out how to do it - plan it, schedule it, create space to do it.

3. And most importantly,  go do it.  Don't just think about it and let it slide because other more urgent things come along or the resources aren't quite right, or you run out of will power at the end of the day. Just do it.  Because we all know that you can think about the dirty dishes, you can make a plan for doing the dirty dishes, but until the dishes get washed they will remain dirty.

So why does this work? 

  1. Because it's just one thing so not overwhelming so you are more likely to fit it in,
  2. It keeps you focused on your career strategy and leadership goals not just executing your role,
  3. It allows for course correction on a daily basis - so you can keep track, measure effectiveness and modify accordingly if required - rather than doing everything in one big enormous rush and then finding out it wasn't a good move or an effective. activity that you spent hours on,
  4. It also means you will need to become more efficient and effective with your time in order to fit the "one thing" in because the rest of your work will still need to be done. You'll need to work far smarter. I'm a great believer that work expands to fill the time allocated so compressing time in this way means we simply stop over polishing the job, get out of our own way and execute really efficiently to deliver the same result.
  5. Because it's regular you can schedule it, make a routine out of it, so that it becomes a habit and not optional. We wouldn't even consider not cleaning our teeth twice or three times a day now because it's ingrained into us as a habit.  But we very rarely think about working strategically on our career goals because it's not a habit. So stick a regular reminder in your calendar until it becomes habitual - 6 days a week at maximum and 3 days per week at a minimum - until you achieve your next goal. Mornings are best. Use your willpower, lock yourself in and simply execute,
  6. And most significantly, it's strategic. Stop being busy and start being strategic. Play a strategic game.

Other applications

You could also use this process with all your goals including your actual work projects or targets - for example:

  • What's the one thing I can do today to move this project forward?
  • What's the one thing I can do today to manage my team better?
  • What's the one thing I can do today towards meeting our strategic objectives?

If you are in business or consultancy for yourself - what about:

  • What's the one thing I can do today to meet my monthly financial targets more easily?
  • What's the one thing I can do today that will help me keep marketing my services while I'm busy delivering for clients?
  • What's the one thing I can do today to get published in (insert name)  magazine?

But remember to at least ask yourself one question about strategically managing your career:

What's the one most effective thing I can do today that will help my career?

It's that easy.  Yes it's simple. Yes, it's elegant. And yes, it works!

I recently read about innovator and entrepreneur Stephen Shapiro who has put something similar into place as a bit of a social experiment. Since 1 January he has challenged himself to just work one hour per day and yet still deliver the same results. Yep, you read that right - he is going to work just one hour per day with the aim of delivering the same results. Scary but true. In fairness he has staff and is leveraging existing relationships and resources more effectively, and definitely working smarter, not longer etc but ...... it still an interesting concept. And while it sounds really fun and challenging, for most of us, the boss expects us to physically be in the office most of the day and would probably focus on "well if you can achieve all that in an hour, what else might be possible in 8 per day?".   You can read more about that project here.

So before you leave work today (or start work tomorrow) I want you to ask yourself - "what one thing can I do that will help move the dial on my career?", then diarise it, make a plan to execute and make it happen.  Then do it again the next day.

Vive la révolution!

#AmbitionRevolution #ImposterSyndromeBegone #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes

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